A split for Beantown
The Red Sox gave Bostonians the victory they wanted Wednesday night. But one poll no national media group dared to undertake was to ask the exuberant Bostonians whether they wanted a Red Sox World Series win or a John Kerry win next Tuesday, if they could only have one. Such a poll would have indicated the passion meter ran heavily to the Red Sox, and was empty for the state's junior Senator.
Boston is the capital of Massachusetts, America's most Democratic state. No other state sends a delegation as large as the one the Bay State sends to Congress that is all from one political party. The state's legislature is also almost all one party — about 80% Democratic. But Massachusetts voters have had the good sense to elect a string of Republican governors. The citizens of the Commonwealth understand that the liberal spending tendencies of the federal government have been a good thing for the state — getting the rest of America to spend $14 billion dollars to bury three miles of expressway, was a well—appreciated payback to the Bay State for Ted Kennedy's services for former President Bill Clinton. But by electing Republican governors, the voters have dampened that same liberal big spending habit at home since the locals would have pay for it with their own tax dollars, as opposed to having out of state taxpayers pay for big construction boondoggles.
In Massachusetts, as long as there is a living Kennedy still involved with politics, the voters seem to think they are pulling the lever for JFK. President Kennedy was a liberal politician at a time when liberal was not an embarrassing word across much of America. But John Kennedy would never have undermined a war effort abroad for political expediency. When JFK ran against Richard Nixon in 1960, he and his party were to the right of the often isolationist GOP in their toughness and commitment to fighting the Cold War. The Democratic standard—bearer in this election has the same initials as the former President, but is a far weaker figure on issues of national security.
Kerry, the supposed Red Sox fan, added to his sports woes on the campaign trail this week, by repeatedly misstating Red Sox playoff scores and mis—naming a Red Sox hitting star. Are we really to believe he watched all the games? Kerry's faux pas added to a prior lie that he had attended the infamous Bill Buckner game 6 in Fenway Park in 1986 (the game of course was played in Shea Stadium). Throw in the Packers' 'Lambert Field' gaffe, and it would seem safer for Kerry to stick to discussing boarding schools or rich women.
I have family in Massachusetts who tell me that despite the state's heavy Democratic voting tendencies, nobody particularly likes John Kerry. A few Democratic members of the State Legislature have announced they are planning to vote for George Bush, much as Red Sox star pitcher Curt Schilling did on Good Morning America Thursday, almost causing John Gibson to swallow his tongue in horror. With Schilling campaigning in New Hampshire with the President on Friday, that state's 4 Electoral College votes might be back in the Bush column soon.
The mile—wide but wafer—thin support for Kerry at home mirrors national polls, which show Kerry support coming half from Bush—haters, and half from those who actually support him. This later half includes the reflexive Democratic partisans who have been punching whatever their precinct captain or union boss has told them to punch since childhood. This is the any Democrat (Kerry included) will do crowd. The profound logic at work here is that if my great grandparents voted Democratic, then so should I. Then there is the harder left —— the Bush is worse than bin Laden crowd, the other half of the Democrats' core constituency.
After Kerry goes down Tuesday, which I now feel more confident will happen (more on this in my election preview coming Monday), the two sides of the Democratic Party may have it out. The Michael Moore wing will take on the interest group wing. It won't be pretty.
But forget politics for a minute and send some well deserved applause over to the Red Sox. They have destroyed two curses —— the Yankees' dominance over them in every key game during the last 80 plus years, and the World Series championship hiatus of 86 years. There will be more than a few funerals in Massachusetts in the next few months and years and all over Red Sox Nation, where the surviving family members will offer comments that he or she died happy having seen the Bosox finally triumph.
Even Yasser Arafat seems to have had a one day rebound in his health after the Red Sox win. Maybe he saw the Sox victory in terms of ending the Yankees' unjust occupation of the Red Sox mind.
Boston and New England have had a few sports golden years. The Patriots won their second NFL title in three years in January and have put 20 straight wins on the board, a league record. It is highly unusual for the same city to hold both the NFL and baseball titles simultaneously*. In 1989, the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl, and the Oakland A's then won the World Series nine months later. But Oakland beat the San Francisco Giants to win the Series, so that Bay Area rivalry means San Francisco did not win both. This would be accepting SMSA dual champions, not single city champions. You have to go back to 1969 when the Jets won Super Bowl III, and the New York Mets then won the World Series to match Boston's performance this year. The Mets and Jets, of course, get extra credit for having both played in Shea Stadium.
There are a few New Englanders who would see a Kerry win as a trifecta. But even among New Englanders, not most. That is because The Red Sox are religion and John Kerry is politics. As the ACLU keeps telling us, you don't mix church and state. Let the Celtics win a title and that would be the trifecta. The Bruins, on the other hand, will be lucky to have a face—off this year, what with the NHL strike. But the Senator, a former hockey player, might have some time on his hands after next Tuesday and before the Senate goes back into session in January, to take a few slap—shots of his own.
The Senator wore his Sox cap proudly yesterday, saying the World Series win augurs well for him. If New Englanders were the only voters (they are 4% of America), Kerry would be in good shape. He might even win the votes of former New Englanders, members of the Red Sox nation who now fan out to the many corners of the land. The Red Sox are America's team this week. But on the ballot Tuesday are Bush and Kerry not Red Sox and Yankees or Red Sox and Cardinals. Kerry will have to stand on his own. Red Sox Nation will remember this season for many years to come. But a few decades from now, what will they remember of John Kerry? I suspect Mike Dukakis was also rooting for the Sox.
*An alert reader, Michael Kiely, has pointed out three more dual baseball/football champions: Pittsburgh in 1979—1980, New York in 1987, and Baltimore in 1970—71.
Richard Baehr is a former resident of Massachusetts and spends part of every baseball season in Maine, firmly embedded in Red Sox Nation.